Graduates of the Tennessee Technological University graduate fisheries management program were surveyed and asked five open-ended questions related to their satisfaction with the program, particularly as it has impacted them in their later professional success. Respondents were also asked to suggest improvements in the program. They reported success and satisfaction for the most part, and offered an impressive array of recommendations to make the program more relevant and practical for fisheries biologists entering today's workforce. The three most common recommendations were to include more practical field experience, to address environmental issues more extensively, and to provide more exposure and practice using specific research and data analysis methods.
In a 1999 article (Kranz, Cook, &Lund), perceived stress factors were reported by sixteen fisheries graduate students at Tennessee Technological University (TTU). In this present paper, the authors are analyzing data concerning the relevance of the graduates' educational preparation in conjunction with current job satisfaction. Data were provided by fourteen graduates of the TTU fisheries program, who are currently employed in related positions nationwide. In addition to various demographic data, the current survey asked graduates to respond to the following open-ended questions:
1. What is your current opinion of the education you received while in the M.S. program at TTU?
2. Do you feel the education you received at TTU adequately prepared you for your current position? Why or why not?
3. What aspects (courses, research, etc.) of your fisheries education at TTU would you consider to have been most helpful / least helpful in your current position? Why?
4. What could the fisheries faculty do to better prepare TTU graduate students for their future careers? Any course content changes?
5. Would you recommend TTU to individuals interested in pursuing a career in fisheries? Why or why not?
All fourteen respondents indicated that they would recommend the program to other prospective students interested in this field. All felt that their graduate education at TTU had provided excellent preparation for their future employment. Their current positions are somewhat diverse with most employed in some capacity as fisheries/wildlife biologists in federal, state, and local agencies. Surveyed graduates identified several significant educational areas in the TTU program that contributed most to their professional success, for example, the quality of advisement and teaching, the amount and nature of their research, field, and lab experiences, and the correlation between their graduate coursework and their future career requisites.
Almost all respondents felt that the fisheries graduate program was effective in preparing them for job placement. They also felt that their education and career preparation was as good as or superior to that of other graduates from similar programs. Several identified TTU's program as one of the top programs in the Southeastern United States. Many specifically credited excellent teaching and mentoring by the fisheries faculty for their success.
Former students related that the practical skills and technical aspects of the coursework prepared them to adequately perform the required duties in their current positions. As one stated, "I was very well prepared for the technical aspects of the job that I have." Others mentioned TTU's outstanding reputation among related agencies, for example, one stated, "The emphasis on practical nuts-and-bolts management has led to a very good reputation with the state game agencies that I have dealings with." Others categorized their educational preparation as "diverse" and "well rounded." One respondent identified the teaching staff as the main source of this diversity: "The staff is well rounded in expertise; e. …